The focus of Sunday's game between the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars will change in a hurry if Tim Tebow is cleared to play, and if Rex Ryan pulls the trigger and decides to make the former Florida standout and Jacksonville native his starter.
Make no mistake, this is a game about Tebow. It is a game Jaguar fans have been waiting for since Tebow and his Denver Broncos opened the 2011 season in Jacksonville. This is the first time this city will see the former Florida Gator and local hero in pads up close since the team made overtures about trying to trade for the super-hyped NFL star.
Tebow, not any Jaguar player, is the reason fans around Jacksonville are excited about this game. Without Tebow, this game really means nothing—other than the Jaguars trying to avoid a top-five draft pick and the Jets trying to find its identity in a season crushed by quarterback performance.
And someone like Greg McElroy behind center does nothing to jazz up this matchup. I mean, how could he?
Even the local radio (1010XL Radio here in Jacksonville) is promoting this as "Tebow Time." An Associated Press story (via The Florida Times-Union) ran about Tebow and the possibility of him starting Sunday as its lead story. He's everywhere here.
He's still a backup yet more than polarizing than ever.
I wonder if Rex Ryan isn't playing him just out of spite (although Tebow has had two broken ribs that have left him inactive the past two games). Or perhaps Ryan truly thinks Mark Sanchez gives him a better chance to win on Sunday, despite the inconsistency that has plagued the Sanchez all season.
The main focus, however, is not whether Sanchez sits on the bench, but rather if No. 15 trots onto EverBank Field to more cheers than any Jaguar player. No Maurice Jones-Drew. No Blaine Gabbert. No Cecil Shorts (we are not yet sure of his status). No Rashad Jennings (ruled out for Sunday).
Without Tebow, this is possibly the most boring game of the year and may challenge a Week 4 shutout loss to the San Francisco 49ers and last week's 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals as the low points of the season for the Jets in terms of offensive futility.
For years, the NBA and its below average teams would promote opponents coming to their arenas so fans could "See the best talents in the NBA." The marketing tool has been successful at times. Never did I think the Jaguars would use that type of marketing strategy to get fans in the stands. The product should speak for itself.
That's why Tebow is more important than ever. With the 34-18 loss to the Buffalo Bills and a 2-10 record, Tebow standing on the sideline will not bring down the house. Jets officials know this as well and the Jaguars brass are praying to the NFL gods that Tebow not only plays but plays well.
If not, there will be a stadium full of Tebow fans. And most them will be none too happy, regardless if the Jaguars can pull off a win.